The flawed idea of controlling content after it has been published publicly

People sometimes claim that they have control over their content after they have published it, this provides a false sense of privacy. The only way to ensure that something isn't redistributed is by not publishing it.

With the recent rise in popularity in federated software, it's even more important to make sure that users understand that deleting content is only done as a best effort attempt. Mastodon (and most other software in the fediverse) seems to give users the impression that they're able to delete their posts from the entire fediverse, what actually happens is a request is sent to other instances in the fediverse asking them to delete it from their servers, they're not forced to.

Something else people oftentimes claim is that you can keep content private by asking crawlers to not touch certain pages through the robots.txt standard. This is oftentimes portrayed as “banning” crawlers from your site, this couldn't be further from the truth. It's essentially politely requesting that the crawler not go to those pages.

What I hear when people say they want to be able to control their publicly published content is that they want what would essentially be DRM for social media, which would be ineffective, just like any form of DRM.

By posting something publicly, you need to acknowledge that there's a chance it may be crawled, archived, or indexed. Not acknowledging this will lead to you being disappointed when you find out that you can't delete your content off of the internet completely. If you don't want your content to be redistributed, you should think twice about publishing it. Anyone claiming that there's a good way to control the distribution of content after it has been published is misinformed.

In order to improve people's privacy, we need to focus on educating them about the importance of being cautious about what you post publicly online.

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